Reconnecting to South Africa

I had the privilege of having Nathan back in the garden this week as a married man. He had been gone for a few weeks out of the country for his wedding. Today, Nathan brought a friend, Muntu, with him to the garden. Muntu is an Adventist homeless man living in a shelter in Santa Monica who somehow connected with Nathan a few weeks before his departure. Muntu is from South Africa, a place I’ve visited and love very much. Muntu is from a township called Soweto. I remember visiting Soweto. The streets were lined with merchandisers and little make shift buildings with the word “Ubuntu” across the tops. Ubuntu means together or oneness, unity in decision making, community. I recalled my stories about some of the people I met and asked him about Ubuntu. The picture below is of Boykie and myself at Nhlengelo, a community center for orphans and the sick. Boykie taught me about Ubuntu.

We talked and weeded and I listened to his story. He ate some of our tomatoes, radishes, and I had crackers in my car that day for some reason. It was all I had but he ate it with gratitude. Muntu had me realize how truly excited I am for the garden to produce enough food to feed more people like him in our neighborhood. Imagine that ethical philosophy of South African Ubuntu happening right here in Hollywood, CA in our garden.  This week at church I am addressing the issue of food justice by organizing a food drive the next two Sabbaths. Hopefully this will carry over into a monthly occurrence but for now, it is our Lenten Food Drive where we as a congregation are called to do a small part of God’s big vision.

With all this talk about South Africa, Muntu told me his desire is to become a chef. He wants to attend the Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts School here in Hollywood. He loves to cook. He asked me what my favorite food was that I ate while in South African and I told him Pop and Beets. The boy above is holding a traditional plate of South African food including pop and beets. Pop is the white porridge that may be mistaken for mashed potatoes on his plate. This is a picture of one of the orphans I worked with at Nhlengelo. Muntu said that if I bought the ingredients, he would make pop and beets for the church next time we host Potluck, Easter Sabbath. I wish there was more I could do. I wish I could find him a scholarship to attend Le Cordon Bleu. But for now, I can give him food and I can be his friend as we continue to garden together every week. Muntu is why I garden.

Food is a basic human right. Food makes people happy. Food brings us together around the communion table. Food is a simple gift and yet it goes such a long way. Make peace, make food, build ubuntu in your community.


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